Horizon Zero Dawn introduced us to one of gaming's best modern heroines: Aloy. Guerrilla Games' expansive open world game was a fantastic new IP when it debuted, with lush environments, challenging gameplay, and a narrative that was unlike anything we'd seen before. Now, Aloy has returned with the second installment of the Horizon Forbidden West with a massive, colorful installment that may be one of the best, most exciting adventures the PlayStation 5 has seen thus far.
In Horizon Forbidden West, we pick up where Zero Dawn left off. The world was essentially in its death throes, and it has continued to devolve and degrade, with the animals and plant life dying off at a rate the planet can no longer afford. As the destructive Red Blight spreads and machines roam around the land, humanity's extinction seems certain. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel: a terraforming AI named GAIA.
The original GAIA was purged, but as Aloy in Horizon Forbidden West, you get to make a sojourn across the western part of what was once the United States to find a copy of GAIA in a bid to make things right again. The hope is that, with GAIA in place once more, the world could be restored to its full glory once more and humanity could finally return to supporting itself.
That's where you come in. As Aloy, you work to move westward along with allies you find along the way, in a bid to save humanity and what's left of it. That leads you on a journey throughout the western area of Carja, ruled by the Tenakth tribe, who Aloy must work with to get along and ask for assistance in meeting her goals.
That's the stage set -- the rest is up to you as you embark on a dizzying amount of quests in a lush, gorgeous world. The main questline does a fantastic job of keeping you engaged and steeped in the lore from the first game while answering the multitude of questions that arise while playing. There's so much to explore that it might be overwhelming at first, but as you learn the new mechanics and jibe with new weapons and abilities Aloy has this time around, you quickly begin to feel more like a part of the world around you, rather than an observer.
With additional abilities, that means the narrative quests are meatier, with more to offer you. True, you will spend a fair bit of your time going on what amount to fetch quests, but the improved writing and voice acting drive you to want to see what's out there and what you can learn from it. And keep in mind that the game is pure eye candy. Though it does tend to suffer from pop-in here and there and a few muddier textures, it's quite beautiful, with excellent audio work all around that goes a long way toward embedding you within this colorful, alien world -- even though it's our planet Earth.
There are a multitude of areas for Aloy to climb and investigate, and new tools like the Pullcaster that can be used to grapple, and the Shieldwing, which lets you glide through the air. Even swimming has been improved greatly, taking a formerly frustrating action and making it into something you actually look forward to doing.
The same can be said for combat. While much of it is the same from the original Horizon Zero Dawn, the combat has been tweaked so that it's paced better and feels more comfortable in general. And speaking of comfort, what a better companion than adding a pair of our CQC, our original mid-rise performance thumbsticks to get a best grip to that PlayStation controller. Also consider our CQC Rush to a unique circular pattern inside the cavity increases grip for even more control which is very convenient for this type of RPG game, where you'll be fighting an army of machines that require you to knock off their armor, and while that can take some time, it's part of an enjoyable challenge.
With all that said, Horizon Forbidden West is a mesmerizing return to form for Aloy, and a great reason to return to the world Guerilla Games so lovingly crafted for us in the beginning. It’s proof that sequels can be just as good, if not better, than their predecessors, and in this case the original game is totally blown away. This is a hallmark of PlayStation gaming, and a title that should be on every gamer’s shelf. Don’t hesitate to journey with Aloy once more in Horizon Forbidden West.
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